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Category: Behind-the-Scenes

Food and Family

As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches our thoughts turn to food and family. If you search our collection database using the term “food” under the quick search, you can find a variety of objects. We have World War I posters that warn against wasting food. We have a rice harvesting tool from Vietnam. We have a color, Farm Security Administration photograph of women slicing pies.  We also have a small terracotta of a woman baking bread in an oven, which is from Boeotia,…

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Mummified Hand

Just in time for Halloween we have the mystery of the mummified hand. How did it become separated from its arm? How did such an object become part of our collection? What does the museum do with it? What kind of condition is a hand in that is likely thousands of years old?

As to the first question, the object was brought into the collection by Professor Richard Austin Rice. Rice was a professor at Williams College from 1881-1911. According to…

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Bringing Pottery Sherds to Life

When we started working on our Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) ancient art digitization grant a couple of years ago, we began to research some objects that came into the museum with very little information, often with no date or culture to speak of. Laura Lesswing, Williams Art History Graduate class of 2010, was a big help to me. We reviewed the curatorial files for leads on information about the objects. In the file for a group of…

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Digitizing Textiles

Photographing textiles was an interesting part of our two year IMLS digitization grant we just finished up which focused on ancient and world cultures. Not all objects fit on a table top on a small easel. In fact, shooting ten foot tall Indian temple hangings and enormous African blankets was a bit challenging for the digitization team. The Indian temple hangings, for example, are usually rolled up and hung from the ceiling in art storage making them difficult to access,…

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Rehousing Chinese Scrolls

Some objects in the museum’s collection need very specialized types of care and handling. During our 2009-2011 IMLS Grant to digitize the ancient and world cultures collections, we photographed the Asian scrolls, and realized that many were fragile and being stored improperly. One important aspect of storing scrolls is that the weight should ideally be placed on the handles and not on the scroll itself. Too much weight being placed on the scroll can lead to folds and creases in…

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Decorating the Director’s Office

Yesterday I helped our new Interim Director Katy Kline explore ideas for decorating the Director’s Office. Her idea was to put together an eclectic mix of objects. In an art museum, objects are usually organized according to what makes sense in terms of geography or time period. So when she got the idea of mixing up vases of all different areas and time periods because they share the same shape and function things started to get interesting. To have an…

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Where Crossed Destinies Meet

One of the highlights of the reinstallation has been the transformation of the 1935 Gallery. For the first time since the early 90s, the magnificent tall windows have been opened up and the results are glorious. The influx of light into the gallery casts dramatic shadows and a vibrant exchange of colors, constantly adjusting throughout the day. The new perspective of the room merits a visit to the museum all by itself.

To coincide with the uncovering of the windows, the…

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Who is Kathryn E. Hurd?

Kathryn E. Hurd’s portrait, which hangs at the bottom of the museum’s Rotunda staircase with the condition laid out by Mrs. Hurd that it must always remain on a wall of the Williams College Museum of Art.

Kathryn E. Hurd’s last will and testament begins with this phrase:

“I give, devise, and bequeath to the Lawrence Museum of Williams College my paintings and pictures. I direct my Executor hereinafter named to divide the proceeds of my estate into two equal shares. One…

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Behind-the-Scenes: The Museum Shop Manager

Michele Migdal is the manager of the WCMA museum shop. Located on the first floor, just off the entrance foyer, you can often find Michele or one of her sales assistants working on displays or assisting customers. Michele keeps the shop stocked with fascinating books and catalogs, beautiful and unique pieces of jewelry, and creative gifts. I interviewed Michele so that everyone could get a behind-the-scenes experience of the shop.

1. How long have you been at WCMA? What brought you…

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Life in the Reinstallation

During the museum shutdown, most of the museum’s staff has been culled to lend a hand in meeting an extremely busy gallery preparation schedule. But there are also some employees who have been entrusted to carry out very different duties from what their normal everyday positions call for.

Tina Maher, a part-time museum shop associate, usually spends her days at the museum selling posters, jewelry, and exhibition catalogues to visitors. Phone orders and stocking shelves also fill her time. But until…

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